YouTube has responded to claims that the “Momo challenge” has appeared in YouTube Kids videos, including about Peppa Pig and Fortnite.
There were reports that Momo, which is a disturbing figure with a bird-like appearance and bulging eyes, has been spliced into kids’ videos.
According to urban legends, the challenge involves committing suicide or engaging in other forms of self-harm. CBS News reported that officials investigated the influence of Momo on the death of a 12-year-old in Argentina several months ago. It added that when children allegedly take part in the challenge, they “contact a stranger concealing themself as ‘Momo’ using a creepy image” and use WhatsApp.
Then, Momo encourages a participant to carry out harmful tasks if they want to avoid being “cursed,” said the report.
YouTube has issued a response after several reports about the challenge gained traction on social media.
“Contrary to press reports, we’ve not received any recent evidence of videos showing or promoting the Momo challenge on YouTube,” a spokesperson for YouTube told the Daily Dot on Feb. 27.
“Content of this kind,” the spokesperson added, “would be in violation of our policies and removed immediately.”
Schools, Police Put Out Warnings
Police and schools in the United Kingdom and Ireland posted warnings on social media this week.
“These video clips are appearing on many social media sites and YouTube (including Kids YouTube). One of the videos starts innocently, like the start of a Peppa Pig episode for example, but quickly turn into an altered version with violence and offensive language,” said the Haslingden Primary School.
We have become increasingly aware of highly inappropriate videos circulating online and are being viewed by children…
It also said the Momo challenge, which shows “a warped white mask,” is telling children to carry out “dangerous tasks without telling their parents.”
“Examples we have noticed in school include asking the children to turn the gas on or to find and take tablets,” the school wrote.
The Northcott School in Hull added, “We are aware that some nasty challenges (Momo challenge) are hacking into children’s programmes Challenges appear midway through Kids YouTube, Fortnight, Peppa pig to avoid detection by adults. Please be vigilant with your child using IT, images are very disturbing.”
IMPORTANT: we are aware that some nasty challenges (Momo challenge) are hacking into children’s programmes Challenges appear midway through Kids YouTube, Fortnight, Peppa pig to avoid detection by adults. Please be vigilant with your child using IT, images are very disturbing
— Northcott School Hull (@NorthcottSchool) February 26, 2019
A psychologist has described the viral “Momo challenge” as largely a hoax, saying that the instructions for the game—which allegedly encourage self-harm or even suicide in children—probably aren’t real.
The “challenge” first went viral last summer, and at the time, it was largely described as a hoax. CBS News reported that Argentine officials investigated a 12-year-old’s death in relation to the hoax, but details of the case are scant.
Dr. Dawn Branley-Bell, a cyberpsychologist from Northumbria University, told Yahoo News: “I believe that the Momo challenge is largely an urban myth or online hoax. This is the latest ‘hot topic’ which is spreading like wildfire due to its sensationalist nature and is causing a lot of parents to be unnecessarily worried.”
She said it’s “the modern equivalent of the monster under the bed” but acknowledges that a small number of children may have been disturbed.
“The sculpture was originally part of an art exhibition in Tokyo and had absolutely nothing to do with any ‘challenge’ but somewhere along the line someone has started this hoax and it has spread,” she said.
She said that “if a child is/has been affected, then we would be better focusing upon the underlying psychological reasons behind that child’s vulnerability.”
“More generally, we should be focusing upon providing the younger generation with the tools they need to become resilient to online content, through education and support—including equipping them with the skills to identify hoaxes and encouraging them to become critical observers of what they see online, which would be much more beneficial than headlines and panic around extreme crazes or rumors,” the professor said.
“There will no doubt be another challenge that comes along, however, it is undoubtedly likely to involve an element of fear—whether that’s through the character fronting the hoax, such as the haunting imagery associated with Momo and Slenderman, and/or a fear of the consequences, i.e., the threat that something bad will happen to you or your family if you do not follow through with the challenges,” she said.